Wednesday, March 23, 2011

BHO in Libya: The Stubborn Refusal to Risk Leading

Nothing should make the world miss Dubya quite so much as the spectacle of reticence, delay and silly squabbling that has erupted in Libya.

First, Obama used diplomacy to slow down the impetus to act to save the nascent rebellion and its civilian supporters and bystanders. Forgetting the lessons of Bosnia, Kosova and Rwanda, Obama squelched moves to intervene.

Then, pushed by allies without and cabinet members within, Obama acceded to action. The UN acted in record time, for the UN, but by then it was the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute. If anything has been saved by the intervention, it was saved at greater cost and less effect than if action had been taken days before.

Then, acting just like every other POTUS since and including Washington, Obama showed little respect for his duty to consult with Congress and seek its approval before making war.

Then, suddenly loath to spend money and concerned about the undefined mission of the operation, he insisted that the US would not lead the coalition for more than a little bit.

And so now, the Germans are pulling out of NATO, the French and the British and the Italians are at odds with us, and no one is even attempting to define what everyone is doing or why. And all that when the objective should be clear: we are protecting the lives of insurgents, moving toward coordination of their ground operation with air support to pressure Gadaffi to surrender power and leave the country.

This is not a failure of leadership. This is a stubborn refusal even to consider exercising it. It's symptomatic of a lack of experience in making decisions, of never having faced consequences for the failure to act, of imagining that collective leadership can function, and ultimately of being more concerned to keep one's own image and record pure than to something that might matter to people who would otherwise be killed by a tyrant.

Anybody remember Martin Niemöller's famous quotation? Anybody see how continually insisting that we don't have a national interest in this or that ruthless dictator's slaughtering of his people rings hollow after awhile?


Micah said...

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

– Barack Obama, December, 2007

Anthony Jones said...

This may be unrelated, or maybe it is, but I'm wondering why Libya is so much more worthy of intervention by the U.S. than a place like Darfur? I'm sure there is a difference, and this is not meant to be asked sarcastically or rhetorically. I just don't understand. If we want to protect civilians and keep people from unjustly dying on the macro level, why ignore Darfur? If Libya threatens our own interests and that's why went want to get involved, why not be honest? Fill me in, Doc.

Q said...

To quote Colin Powell, "In international politics, there are no good guys, there are no bad guys, there are only "interests"'.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Q's point is relevant, though Powell was engaging in overstatement in this famous quotation. It's a red herring to say that because we pick and choose where to intervene, we ought never intervene. Blood and treasure are limited, and even nations pursuing a noble purpose are deeply flawed morally. It's only the confluence of national interest with moral concerns that can lead to an intervention.

One could name countless other incidents besides Darfur in this regard.

But this gets spun out by many as, Because I can't help everyone, I shouldn't help anyone. That's utter nonsense, of course, though it does puncture a bit of the morally narcissistic posturing that some want to do when they do intervene.

JB in CA said...

I agree with SWNID. A right to intervene is not the same as a duty to intervene. Since we have limited resources and can't help everyone that needs it, we must choose our battles wisely. That's where national interests come into play.

Christine said...

I think we have a national interest in a peaceful Libya, if only to keeping the flow of oil to Europe consistent.

True, it's interesting to see BHO have to eat his words, but provided he can manage to pull this off without making a complete hash out of it, I'm behind the pres. on this.

Anthony Jones said...

Fair more important news, Doc, do you care to give us your thoughts on the CATS returning to the Final Four for the first time in 12 years?!?!?! Makin' history!

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

We congratulate the Commonwealth of Kentucky that its semiprofessional basketball players are competitively superior to those of 46 other states. Bask in the reflective glory, y'all!